MUSIC AT PRIEST LAKE
By Jim Luby Music and dancing (and drinking) have long been a part of the lake experience. Over 100 years ago in Coolin, at Ida Handy’s Idaho Inn, they danced to music from a Gramophone. When Leonard Paul built his new store, I think in 1926, the upstairs was used for weekend dances. My dad and mom met at one of those dances in 1935 and, over the years, I’ve heard the same story from others. Later, there were teen dances at the old Nordman school house, and following that, at Kaniksu Resort. The adults were at the Lamb Creek Inn, The Cedars (always referred to as Millie’s), Van’s Corner (Frizzy’s), and Nordman. At Van’s the Burns Brothers were literally the house band, since one of the brothers owned it, and singing along with Hank Thompson’s “Squaws Along The Yukon” was a highlight of the night.
One summer, I’m guessing late 70’s, Mike Waggoner noticed Tom Simon wasn’t in Walla Walla working pea harvest and Mike heard Tom was playing piano at some place called Hill’s Resort. In those days at Hill’s, where the stage is now, there was a small banquet room that could hold about 30 people. Hill’s had a piano in the back corner of the room, and that’s where Mike found Tom one night playing that piano with a woman sitting on his lap. That was the end of pea harvest for Mike and not long after that, he started working at Hill’s as the dock boy during the day and sitting on a stool in that back room playing his guitar and singing at night. He wasn’t very good but we all enjoyed the heck out of it. In 1981 or 82, a pilot from Canada, Ed Kwalick had purchased the Northern Hotel just up the hill from Bishop’s Marina and renamed it Captain Eddy’s. He built a big covered deck on the lake side of the building and that is where I first heard Trapper Creek. All the usual suspects were in attendance and we had a ball open air dancing to Trapper Creek. By that time, “The Gator” was “a thing” at the lake that had started at one of the Kaniksu teen dances. Captain Eddy’s covered deck had exposed 2 x 4’s instead of a ceiling and Doug Miller hung from one of the 2 x 4’s and invented the “Air Gator.” Much frivolity ensued! Unfortunately, Coolinites were not in favor of music and dancing and Captain Eddy’s was short lived. (How Coolin has changed from the Gramophone days and the Leonard Paul dances!) Anyway, Trapper Creek moved to Elkins and the place did so much business, Bob and Sharon Davis had to remove the pony wall that separated the bar from the tables and made “The Birch Room” one big room. Later, they had to reinforce / rebuild the dance floor and of course the bar was renamed Trapper Creek Bar. Two things were “de rigueur” on the weekends during Trapper Creek’s heyday. One thing, of course, was The Gator which by that time was the prescribed activity when Trapper Creek played Johnny B. Good. This echoed the previous generation singing along to Squaws Along The Yukon at Van’s Corner. The other thing occurred when Trapper Creek played Jimmy Buffett’s song, Volcano. When that song played, Mark Hanson would join the band and make up lyrics. I think he did it on both Friday and Saturday nights, and I never heard the same lyrics twice. For me, those were the halcyon days of Priest Lake night life and I don’t get the same vibe now. I’m hoping someone will pick up the trail blazed by the Idaho Inn, Leonard Paul, the Burns Brothers, and Trapper Creek.
Thank you for sharing Jim. Priestlakers please share stories of Trapper Creek with Sadie for her book. email firstname.lastname@example.org